It's not often that the college football world revolves around Rice-Eccles Stadium, but that will be the case tonight as the Utah Utes host the No. 13 USC Trojans for the first time in 95 years.
Though this year's Trojan team is ranked a bit lower than past seasons due to an early loss to Stanford, but they're still talented at every position -- and they still command plenty of attention, as previews for the game suggest.
USC's own head coach Lane Kiffin isn't buying the under-the-radar talk, anyway. "I don't think at SC you're ever off the radar," Kiffin told ESPN's Ted Miller. "I think that shows in the ratings of games. Even when you're not No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3, all the conversations are about SC and you're always everybody's biggest game. I don't think you ever really come off the radar here."
Pedro Moura of ESPNLosAngeles called tonight's matchup "a so-called 'trap game'" for the Trojans, suggesting they might be looking ahead to next week's opponent, Washington.
Moura also highlighted a big story to watch for -- namely, how Utah's patchwork offensive line matches up against a talented USC defensive front.
"Maybe the most exciting head-to-head matchup in the game will be at right tackle/left end," Moura wrote Thursday, "where USC surprise star Morgan Breslin will rush the passer against Utah true freshman Jeremiah Poutasi. Poutasi's a nice young player -- Oregon was on him throughout the recruiting process -- but Breslin has proved to be a wily vet in the Trojans' four games this season."
Then again, the USC offensive line may have problems of their own if standout center Khaled Holmes does not play. His status pre-game was unclear, and Sports Illustrated's Reign of Troy blog broke down the possible outcomes: "With (Holmes), the Trojans are heavy favorites against Utahs Star-studded defensive line, as they average 212 yards with him in the lineup. Without him, USC is looking right into the same situation going into the Stanford game, only with a louder crowd to compliment an eerily similar defense."
USC fan blog Conquest Chronicles emphasized the Trojans' offensive firepower at the skill positions: "...As long as the running game churns out solid yardage, the necessity to pass disappears, which was the case against California. ... But wheres the pizzazz in running for 200 yards? I'm inclined to think the offense has some fun Thursday night in Salt Lake City."
The Trojan offense might not be the only ones having fun Thursday night. The Utah Jazz are attending the game, as reported by Deseret News beat writer Jody Genessy: "The Jazz, whove had five practices in the past 2-1/2 days of camp, will attend the USC-Utah game at Rice-Eccles Stadium as a team."
While the Jazz are just hoping for a good show, there's a lot more at stake for the two teams on the field, as ESPN's Ted Miller writes: "An upset victory for Utah would be monumental for the program in its second year of Pac-12 play. And an impressive performance by USC could land it back on the national radar."